The Full Weight of Surrealism

+-+38865729_140History of the Surrealist Movement
Gérard Durozoi
University of Chicago Press, 2002

This massive work, originally published in France in 1997, is actually a history of surrealism as it manifested itself in the visual arts—painting, sculpture, and film. The movement’s core literary expression receives short shrift in the book’s 800-plus pages. The political battles of the surrealists against Stalinism are represented in some detail, although the reader should consult the selections from Political Position of Surrealism in the Seaver and Lane collection, Manifestoes of Surrealism, to fully appreciate the perspicacity of André Breton’s revolutionary vision in the year 1935. Durozoi’s treatment of the post-war struggle of surrealism to determine itself is valuable, but the details of Breton’s turn away from Marx and dialectical thinking towards esoteric currents of thought demand more attention. Durozoi gives us an account of a surrealist game played in the early 1950s called “Will you open?” in which players are asked if they would welcome particular guests from the history of philosophy and revolution. Breton declines to open the door for his former philosophical North Star, Hegel, “out of weariness.”

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